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Could 'Blame Game' Slow Willow Lane Progress?

The objective is a 'safe and successful walking program,' township engineer says.

It's time to move on.

Moreover, the most important thing right now is to move forward. And, according to all involved, that would mean making the area around Willow Lane Elementary School safe for the students who will be crossing streets to walk to school in the fall.

Indeed, the two statements have been repeated over and over as parents and school and township officials try to downplay the question of whether Willow Lane was designed as a school for walking students while they try to hash out the details of what's needed to make the intersection at Willow and Sauerkraut lanes -- and several surrounding intersections -- the safest they can be for the young students.

But some officials are stuck in what Lower Macungie Township Commissioner Ryan Conrad described recently in a Facebook post as the “tit-for-tat about who knew what when about the Willow Lane walking situation…” In the scheme of things, he wrote, placing blame “is so insignificant.” Conrad blames the media for creating and driving the issue.

Much to Conrad's dismay, however, after the talk at the of Jan. 17 Board of Commissioners meeting about what improvements can and should be implemented, and how quickly East Penn School District and the township can put them in place, the same old issue that seems to keep stalling the process returned.

"I’m a little troubled that the school board has decided what we’re going to do, [and said] 'now you go and pay for it.' I don’t like that the school district already has made that decision, yet we’re expected to go forward and pay for all these improvements,” Commissioner Roger Reis said, especially since the school was not designed for walking students.

Conrad sat on the dais with his head in hands saying, “The issue is moot.”

Some would argue it’s not moot, though, if it slows or curtails the installation of safety measures for the children, which is what some parents fear. The 2013-14 school year starts in August, before Labor Day.

Documentation supports both the school's and the township's claims: Minutes from the township's March 2007 Willow Lane School Zoning Hearing Board meeting indicated the school was never built as a school to which students would be walking, Township Manager Bruce Fosselman said in a recent email.

Minutes of the district's Act 34 Hearing, held Aug. 6, 2007, clearly say, "The new school will enhance the concept of 'Neighbor Schools' which allows some children to walk to school." Pennsylvania Act 34 of 1973 requires that a public hearing be held on all new school district construction.

Township Commissioner James Lancsek said he remembers the Willow Lane process from its very inception when it was discussed during his longtime service as a township zoning officer. Willow Lane was never designed as a walking school, he said at the Jan. 3 commissioners meeting. At the Jan. 14 school board meeting, possibly in an attempt to put the topic to rest, East Penn Superintendent " by failing to remind township officials what was needed.

Township Engineer William Erdman said that while Willow Lane may have been designed as a walking school, in the beginning there were no walkers, so safety measures were not needed. Now that there will be walkers, safety measures will be put in place.

“The major objective is for township and school district to work together for a safe and successful walking program,” Erdman said.

Brian Higgins January 23, 2013 at 04:30 PM
I agree with Ron's assessment. I wanted to post my thoughts but there was just too much to say here. http://higgins4lmt.blogspot.com/2013/01/who-cares-whos-wrong-fix-it.html
Ron Beitler January 23, 2013 at 05:18 PM
LMT BOC.... Jaindl issue: "Lets move past this" "Lets repair polarization"... don't fixate on the cause... What's done is done.... yadda yadda Willow Lane Safety issues: "It's the School districts fault" "The School district put us in this mess" Hypocrisy much?
Carl Stevenson January 24, 2013 at 01:24 AM
Could it be that rampant development in Lower Mac has exacerbated the traffic problem. I know that many in Upper Milford are unhappy with the impact even beyond the demands on the EP School District.
careless fills January 24, 2013 at 01:31 PM
This is a silly comment. Who care what those people said? It is irrelevant to the issue at hand. They didn't cause it and they won't solve it. The miscommunication is mainly between the school district administration (and board attorney) and the townships administration (and planning board). Perhaps, also a little sloppiness on the parts of both the school board and town council for not making sure things got done or kicking the can down the road by expecting the other to take care of it and pay for it. But to put the onus on the people who wanted to cross the I's and dot the T's in the best way for the temporary solution is just silly, and unproductive. Just get it done!!
Giovanni Landi January 24, 2013 at 01:52 PM
If I remember correctly Mr. Stolz and Mrs. Donches both voted against cutting the Willow Lane bussing from the start. The people making this political are people like "for real" who also seem to be promoting revisionist history. A simple search on Patch will show you who supported cutting the bussing before the appropriate safety steps were taken and who stood up for the safety of the children. You can try to mislead people all you want "for real" the public isn't falling for it anymore. We want solutions not finger pointing and dishonest statements from posters like you.

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